World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media on WHO's health emergency preparedness and response capacities in Geneva, Switzerland, July 31, 2015.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media on WHO's health emergency preparedness and response capacities in Geneva, Switzerland, July 31, 2015.

UNITED NATIONS - The head of the World Health Organization said Thursday that Ebola in West Africa could be “soundly defeated” by the end of this year.

Dr. Margaret Chan told the U.N. Security Council that current surveillance and response capacities have greatly improved and health workers have a better picture of how the disease spreads.

Speaking via a video link from Hong Kong, she said the three most affected West African countries have made huge progress. New cases in Liberia have stopped, and in Guinea and Sierra Leone a total of only three cases have been reported during each of the past two weeks.

“If the current intensity of case detection and contact tracing is sustained, the virus can be soundly defeated by the end of this year. That means getting to zero and staying at zero,” she said.

The WHO says the latest outbreak of Ebola, which started last year, will not be officially over until there are zero cases of the virus. Affected countries need to have no new reported cases for 42 days before they can be declared virus-free.

Chan said the African Union and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are jointly establishing a communicable disease control system to help African nations better prepare for potential future outbreaks.

There have been nearly 28,000 cases of Ebola and more than 11,000 deaths.